Hi, Frank Indiviglio here. I’m a herpetologist, zoologist, and book author, recently retired from a career of over 20 years with the Bronx Zoo. The magnificent Eastern Indigo Snake, Drymarchon couperi, is the longest of all snakes native to the USA, but occupies one of the smallest ranges. These facts, along with stunning coloration and its reputation as a responsive pet, place the Indigo on the wish lists of serious snake keepers and zoos worldwide. I had the good fortune to assist with an Eastern Indigo breeding/release program headquartered at the Bronx Zoo, which was both fascinating and frustrating. Today I would like to pass along some thoughts on its natural history and captive care.
The Eastern Indigo Snake is among the longest of all North American snakes; in the USA, only the Bullsnake, Pituophis catenifer sayi, regularly rivals it in size. Robust and alert, the Eastern Indigo Snake averages 5-6 feet in length, with a record of 8 feet, 5 inches. The glossy, blue-black coloration is unique to this species. Some individuals, greatly favored in the pet trade, sport heads and chins highlighted by a reddish tint.
The Eastern Indigo Snake is restricted to southeastern Georgia, southeastern Mississippi, and Florida. Although coastal dunes, Palmetto scrub, agricultural areas and marsh fringes are colonized, healthy populations seem to require large expanses of longleaf pine forest and similar upland environments. Human development within prime Indigo habitat has severely threatened this species’ future. Today, only captive-born individuals may be legally sold, but over-collection was a severe problem in the past.
The Texas Indigo Snake (D. corais erebennus) ranges from southern Texas to central Mexico, while other relatives, known as Cribos, inhabit Central and South America.